Is The BirdTricks Natural Feeding Program For Everyone?

Rosebreasted Cockatoo/Galah (You can give them all the 'food' you want - they'll still destroy your office!!!!)

In the last couple of weeks my personal facebook messages and email inbox have gone nuts and I admit to having missed messages, notifications and yeah I’ve been kind of in my own world after the death of my dog so when I have replied I’m not overly sure how coherent I’ve been! Birdtricks followers have been particularly supportive of me lately and I want to say thankyou to those who have given their condolences and have helped me through this.

I also think I need to do a general post answering the other messages though as there have been some very important questions amongst them.  I have been getting endless messages from people asking about my personal opinion of the Birdtricks “All Natural Feeding Program”.

People know that I would stake my own reputation on BirdTricks in a heartbeat and those that know me, know I wouldn’t do something like that lightly. I’m also known for being about as tactful as a sledge-hammer and that I’ll actually say when I think something is wrong or stupid. I’ve never really been good at hiding my feelings as I have one of those transparent faces that tends to tell people I think they’re stupid before I can even say it.

A very wet musk lorikeet with his beak full of capsicum.

I’m generalizing but Australians hate a hard-sell marketing style and I don’t think we’re the only ones who are like that. In Australia, there were too many advertising campaigns back in the 80s and early 90s that took a hard-sell approach and they seem to have had a scarring effect on our culture. Everything seemed to come with “6 free steak knives” and you had to be in the first however many callers to get them. So now when someone gives us anything that even remotely resembles a hard-sell spiel we tend to sarcastically demand to know where our steak knives are?!? I’ve lost count of how many Australian BirdTricks followers have asked me if the feeding program comes with steak knives? You guys crack me up, but I can happily say steak knives are not included!

For those who don’t know, I have birds that are on specialised diets. The lorikeet diet is completely different to my other birds and as Chet said in the video explaining the program, specialised diets aren’t something that can be covered in one universal feeding program.

My lorikeets get a vet-recommended wet mix daily and I add various things to this as needed. My eclectus parrot meanwhile has completely different needs again. An eclectus needs more vitamin A than my other birds and that’s just for a start! This is also different to my Blue and Gold Macaw whose blood tests have indicated that I need to up his protein levels.

Fid enjoying a banana (and yes the water was yellow on purpose)

Even within the same species there are differences in the dietary needs of my birds. My elderly galah and female galah have higher calcium needs than my younger male galahs and I find myself consciously watching that they don’t get too much iron (inhibits calcium absorption) but on the flip side, galahs have higher iron needs than the other birds that I live with so… you get the idea. It’s complicated.

Meal time at my place is consequently a bit of a nightmare as they all have what I think of as their ‘individual core diet’, to meet their own species and medical needs and it changes with the season and whatever ailments they may develop. I have spent a lot of time researching, discussing with my vet and I have seen the results of their diet and in their blood tests. I’m not about to do something that is going to mess that up!

Normal people aren’t in my position. I’m a University Vet Science Student. I have access to most medical journals on the planet. When I say I research something, I literally have the means to do it very easily. Aside from the mounds of articles and texts, I have access to so many different vets and specialists. I might not be fully qualified yet but this stuff is what my daily life is all about. I’m incredibly lucky, normal people don’t have those kinds of facilities at their fingertips.

Major Mitchell Cockatoo. (Photo by Tom Jacka)

So where do I stand on the Birdtricks Natural Feeding Program? If I’m honest, I’m torn between wanting to scream and wanting to cheer.

I want to scream because I think of how many hours I’ve spent glued to a computer screen researching this stuff, only to have a manual lay out what I’ve learned neatly and more clearly than I could have ever expressed it myself. It is kind of frustrating to think how much time I could have saved if this had been available years ago. On the flip side, if I hadn’t spent the hours doing the research I don’t know that I would have recognized the work that has gone into compiling it.

Male eclectus parrot, sharing pomegranate with the floor around his cage.

I’m personally not about to rip my birds off their specialized diets or the diets that I have created for them based on their blood profiles. I don’t need to. What I’m doing is working and has been medically proven. There are probably many of you out there who have had blood profiles on your birds done and have done the research and developed a diet that you know is working for your birds. I know from the messages that I have received that many of you resent being made to feel that “you’re probably killing your birds if you don’t get the Natural Feeding Program”. I get it. I’m right there with you. I know I’m not killing my birds with their diet. I have the medical charts to prove it.

The thing is, the ingredients in the recipes in these manuals ARE what I’ve been feeding my birds and I’m pretty sure that those of you who have done your research are going to find that’s the case for you too. I might be happy with my birds’ diets but I can still use these manuals. There are soooo many recipes and different ways of presenting food in there. I’m not actually changing my birds’ diets in using them. I still need to take my birds’ specific needs into consideration but now I have a whole stack of new ways to do that.

Even birds on specialized diets such as lorikeets can benefit from these manuals. Wet mix isn’t the only thing I feed my lorikeets. Some of the recipes in the manuals give me a different way of presenting foods that I’m already feeding my lorikeets. It’s not a complete diet for them, in the way it is for other species, but it is still useful.

Happy to see food, Fid fluffs his head feathers up and snatches it quickly!!!!

The manuals combine a lot of research and will save you a lot of time if you haven’t done the research yourself. If you have done the research, you might be pleasantly surprised to find they confirm what you know and give you more ways to present food to your birds. You can never have too much information.  The worst thing that’s going to happen if you buy the program is that you’re going to confirm you’re already feeding your birds a decent diet and you’ll have more recipes with which to continue that.

To those of you who have skeptically asked me about the whole ‘Birdtricks killing their birds thing’ – “Is that even true?” more than one of you have asked. I want you to stop and think about what dietary mistakes can mean for a bird and then ask yourself that question of whether that could be true or not? You don’t really need me to confirm that.

To those who are saying that they have purchased other bird cookbooks that they swear by and they do not think they’re killing their birds by following those. “How dare Birdtricks imply that they are?!?”  That’s not what this feeding program is about. Yes – this information is out there if you look for it. Yes – there are some amazing cookbooks out there. Seriously people, can it really hurt you to look at some more recipes? This program compiles a lot of that information in one place, it’s here to make your life easier, not to threaten you.

Red Lory enjoying some orange at Taronga Zoo (Sydney, Australia)

The program is avian vet approved. They’re not making that up. I don’t need to see their vet or their qualifications to know this. I can see it based on similarities to my own vet’s recommendations. The reality is there are diseases that are triggered by dietary deficiencies and the first thing an avian vet is going to do is look at your bird’s diet to fix it. You can help prevent those diseases by getting your bird’s diet right in the first place.

If you have been put off by the ‘hard sell’, I want to encourage you to see past it. The reality is the product is good enough to sell itself without needing a hard sell. The people behind it are so excited by it that they are understandably desperate to try and get you to see its worth and its potential. That’s where the hard sell is coming from. The intention is good. The guys at Birdtricks are driven by a desire to improve the lives of birds around the world and they know these manuals can help that. If you don’t believe them or me, take a look for yourself. Follow the Natural Feeding Program Link and download some of the sample recipes available.

Steak knives aside, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised (and honestly – they didn’t pay me to say that!)

Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.

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